At the End of the Rainbow
By Stanley Paul
With Judy before the close of her Chicago appearance, 1967.
Judy returned to the Pump Room the next evening and was seated in Booth One, this time with her ex-husband Sid, her conductor Bobby Cole, and two of her children: Lorna and Joey Luft. (They were part of her show and had accompanied her on the tour.) After dinner, she excused herself and took the children upstairs, promising to return once they were asleep. Lorna was around 13 at the time, and Joey was somewhere near 10.
“You mean those kids were sleeping last night while we were listening to records?” I asked Sid just after she’d left. “While we played the piano until nearly dawn?”
“Sure!” Sid answered me. “Those kids could sleep through a hurricane by now!”
Judy came back just after midnight, and then, like the previous evening, I was invited up to her suite. This time she put on her famous concert of 1961: Judy at Carnegie Hall. She’d never sounded better and preferred her voice then, I suspect, to her voice now.
After about an hour, Sid and Bobby left (as they had the night before), and I suggested we go to my suite instead of hers this time. It was only a few floors down, and had the advantage of a grand piano to play on. “We could really have some fun!” I said. The truth was, I felt uncomfortable making such a racket with two kids trying to sleep just a wall away. We spent hours at my piano that night, going through my collection of music books. It was the thrill of a lifetime and one I shall never forget.
It was nearly 7:00 in the morning when I escorted her back up to her suite. She had to get up “fairly early,” she said, because she was going to sing for the guys at the Great Lakes Naval Air Station in just a few hours. Fairly early! It was fairly early already! “Did she never sleep?” I kept asking myself.
I was out like a light the minute my head hit the pillow, and I didn’t get up again until 2:00 in the afternoon. When I asked at the front desk just what time it was that Judy had actually left the hotel, I was told she’d walked out the door at 10:30 that morning. I couldn’t believe it!
I showed up for work at the Pump Room that night, literally dragging myself to the bandstand. Once again, Judy was there in Booth One with a group of people, including the actor Forrest Tucker. “Come up for a drink,” she offered as usual just around closing time, adding, “We’re leaving early tomorrow though, so it’ll have to be an early night.”
Early night? It was already 1:30 a.m.! Half the city had been asleep for hours, and she wanted to make it an early night? That night, 15 minutes or so after everyone else left her suite, I made my excuses too: “I’ll be going then. You’ll want to get some sleep before you catch that flight in the morning.” But Judy had no intention of calling it a night. “Whattaya mean? You just got here, Stanley! And you have to hear Liza’s new album. Tell me what you think?” We listened, as I stared off somewhere into space, forcing myself to stay awake.
“Did I ever tell you about the Gumm sisters?” she said when the record ended. For the next half hour, she told one hysterical story after another about her childhood days, when she and her sisters were in Vaudeville. She accompanied every story by singing and dancing around the room. I was beyond tired by then, so to this day, I can’t remember a single one of the stories she told. All I remember is that I have never laughed so heartily as I did that night!
No one had a better sense of humor than Judy Garland!
Her stories were beyond priceless!
It was nearly 4:30 in the morning before I finally persuaded her to try to get some rest. I went down to my suite and put a Do Not Disturb sign on the knob, closing the door behind me and sleeping through much of the next day. About 8:00 on Tuesday morning, the phone rang so persistently that I – regretfully – had to answer it. “Have you seen the Tribune?” a friend was screaming excitedly. “You and Judy Garland are the lead item in Herb Lyon’s column!
Wherever I went for the next few weeks, someone would started humming Somewhere over the Rainbow, or kiddingly ask how the new romance was going.
The truth is, one more week of “Dorothy” and I’d have been over the rainbow myself!
This concludes Stanley Paul’s two-part feature, Judy Garland: At the End of the Rainbow.